Tuesday, April 30, 2013

We Need a Cool-Down!

No, I'm not cabin-fevered out, nor a stark-raving mental lunatic. If you haven't caught it, the Knife gauge went live here finally. And while that is great news since it means the ice is finally going out of North Shore tribs, take a look at the latest flow - OY!

4000cfs is about 9X higher than the fishable flow range. What we need is a bit of a cool down to slow runoff from snowmelt. There's still a fair amount of snow up in the highlands yet, so if we get some moderated temps, it would reduce the mad runoff dash to the lake, and bring flow rates back down towards fishable ranges as opposed to the Class V whitewater we have now.

The other thing it will do is to help raise water temps. This might seem counter-intuitive, but even when stream temps are approaching that magic 40F mark, a big dump of snowmelt runoff tanks temps since it's dumping cold water into the streams. This in turn slows down fishing even though the fish are there. Steelhead are creatures of metabolism after all.

Fortunately it looks like we might get just that: Daytime temps in the mid-forties with overnight temps below freezing for a few days. Look for flows to begin to drop and hold on!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Fishing Report: 4-25-13

Our North Shore tributaries have some flow, but still are mostly ice - crazy!  Anglers continue to target Kamloops and steelhead from shore neer river mouths.  There are some reports that a few river mouths are open and fish have started to entered.  The weekend warming should get this much delayed season moving along.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Buggin' Out!

    Holy cow, we are all beyond stir-crazy at this point. Reading about steelheading is a poor substitute when we all feel like fishing, but with Boreas doing his happy dance up in steelhead country, what's a steelheader to do? Time to get a little learnin' in by buggin' out - bad pun intended....

    Kamloops are primarily bug-eaters and tend to spend a lot of time in the upper portion of the water-column over deep basins, or in shallow water areas while out in the big lake. Both steelhead and kamloops will gorge on loose spawn while in the streams, but there's another part of the equation you should not overlook; hence the term "Eggs and Legs".

    Getting familiar with resident bugs is a good idea. Steelhead will key on them as a food-source, particularly when the water is either very cold - below 38-40F, and once again when stream temps hit 45 and up. In between they'll be dining on free-drifting eggs, but as female steelhead create their redds, they tend to kick up a lot of nymphs and pupa as they disturb the gravel and rock substrate; and all those fish hanging out below the spawning gravel have lots of choices on the menu.

    So how do you know what to choose? One obvious method is to simply turn over softball-sized rocks or pull woody debris, look at what's crawling around, then make fly selections based on what you find. But short of being an entymologist, how do you know? Or if it's the dead of winter and you're poking around in the fly shop, or sitting at the tying bench, how do you make a choice? Fortunately the answer is just a click or two away.

    If you're not aware, the MPCA maintains thousands of monitoring stations on water-bodies throughout the State. These stations assess everything from water-quality to biological data. Answering the bug question becomes pretty easy because the answers are right at your fingertips.

    To get the data, you just need to know what to look for. First, navigate to the MPCA surface water station site. It's a multi-layer GIS style map-based page that allows you to quickly navigate to data and is found HERE

    Once you're there, it's just a matter of zooming around the State map and finding a particular type of station. You can eliminate clutter by selecting the type of map-layers displayed using the Map Contents Layer Visibility feature. Just check Surface Water\Monitoring Stations\Aquatic Life Use Support-Streams. If you uncheck the others it'll reduce clutter even further.

    Once you pan over to the North Shore, zoom in using the +/- on the nav bar. If you have a scrolling mouse you can use that to zoom in or out too. What you are looking for are the Brown Square symbols that represent a bio-station.

Once you're there, click on the brown square. This will call up the station info, click the bio-station ID to view data.

    Now that you are in the station, simply click the "Aquatic Life" tab. This will bring up all of the species which were sampled during the latest period. Note that not all of the stations will tell you what kinds of bugs were found. It all depends on what was actually done during the last survey; but when there is a list, it is a great informations source.

From there you can look at a variety of streams in the area to determine the most common bugs available to the fish. Use that knowledge to help you determine which flies to buy, or which to tie. Note that if it's steelhead or kamloops you're after, key on the nymphs and pupa of the species listed as they will be what the fish are going to be feeding on most of the time.
    The last item to note is that you DON'T have to be a fly-rod wielding junkie to fish flies effectively. You can catch steelhead and kamloops on flies with a variety of gear with a little know-how. Rather than re-create the wheel, you can read the companion blog on fishing flies HERE

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Flows are Picking Up!

Despite the heavy snow and cold gripping the North Shore, the first major change has begun. Note the gigantic sediment plume spinning out into the lake along with the discoloration along the South Shore.

Hard to tell the source but it's a good bet that this is combined Nemadji, Lester and Knife activity with regards to the clay hurricane visible in the image.

Feels like steelheading will never happen at this point in a seemingly endless winter; but mother nature appears to be putting the hammer down despite Boreas's attempt at one last hurrah before retreating to the arctic.

Keep your fingers, and toes, and eyes, and boot-laces and whatever else you can find crossed...

Friday, April 12, 2013

North Shore infested with snow!

The National Weather Service has extended the winter storm warning for Duluth, Superior, Cloquet and Two Harbors until 5 p.m. today. Snow is forecast to continue across the area today. While the intensity of the snow will diminish this afternoon in the Twin Ports, another 1 to 3 inches is expected from late morning through the afternoon. Winds will continue to gust to 40 mph out of the northeast, especially near Lake Superior.

Check out this link for more of the gory details: http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/event/article/id/264015/

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Shore Casting for Winter Kamloops & Steelhead

For many a Steelheader, spring can NEVER come soon enough. Waiting for the rivers to open and flow can be incredibly frustrating and almost intolerable at times. However for those ambitious, thick-skinned fishermen (and women), there IS another option. An option that can produce some great fish, both trout and salmon, and give us the rush we all chase as Steelheaders as well. Shore casting.

Shore casting is a simple, basic fishing technique that is proven to work. Some gear needed to get into shore casting you likely already have though you may be “forced” to invest in some new equipment.

Equipment for basic shore casting on the Minnesota North Shore:

 • Slow to medium action casting rod with spinning reel (many outdoor outfitters do carry nice rod/reel setups specifically for shore casting.)
• 6lb. to 8lb. monofilament, low-visibility line
• Size 6 or 8 hooks (some of us prefer red hooks)
• Small swivels
• Slide sinkers or snap-loc casting sinkers
• Worm blower (if opting to float worms)
• Slip bobber, sinkers and gear required for typical slip bobber set up (if choosing to fish bait under bobber)
• Rod holder (keep hammer on hand to secure your holder)
• Cleats to attach to boots in slippery conditions especially when navigating icy rocks or terrain
• Net if preferred

• Rubber bands
•Popsicle sticks (for those with kids, stock up during the summer time)

Bait Choices:
• Worms - for fishing beneath a bobber or for floating (a personal favorite of many)
• Spawn - to fish below bobber
• Floating spawn bag - as you’d float a worm
• Looper bugs (type of jig) - to use with wax worms beneath bobber

Equipment Setup for floating bait:
Note, your leader whether floating bait or fishing below a bobber should be around 24-36 inches.

• Place rod holder so it’s in place and ready
• Remove your reel so that you can slide two tight rubber bands above the reel then replace reel
• Place 1-2 popsicle sticks between your rod and rubber bands
• When floating bait, place your sinkers above your swivel
• If using a worm, hook worm through nose then through collar
• Using a worm blower, fill worm with air without puncturing worm too many times
•Take rod to the water and ensure your worm floats (or floating spawn bag floats properly if using spawn).  If your bait sinks, remove it from your hook and try again until it floats or it won’t be effective.  It is essential your bait floats if you choose this technique.

Once the bait is good to go, open the bail and cast, letting it fly as far as you can. Using a rod with a longer handle can provide better leverage for casting and is recommended. Now reel slowly until your line is tight and you have some bend in the tip of the rod. Once you feel some resistance, place your line between your rod and popsicle stick so that you don’t lose that resistance or bend in the rod. Then open the bail so that if a fish takes the bait, you’ll see your rod release and the fish can take some line until you grab your rod, close your bail, reel down and SET THAT HOOK! And hopefully after that fight, you’ll land a nice Steelhead or Kamploop. (Note that many times your rod won’t release for many reasons, especially if the bite is really light that day so if you see your rod tip bouncing like crazy but your line hasn’t released, it’s a no brainer that you most likely should close the bail, release the line, slowly reel down until you feel a slight resistance and SET THE HOOK!)

Shore casting can be done year round, but if you’re looking for Steelhead and Kamploops specifically, your best chance is going to be late winter as the water begins to warm. That said, the water begins to warm around the south shore first and makes its way north so depending on your patience level or where you’re commuting from, beginning along the southern portion of the shore may be the way to go for some folks, remembering the further south on the shore you are, the more Kamloops you are likely to encounter. When fishing near a river mouth remember that regulations require you can fish only 1 rod within 100 feet of the mouth while further from the mouth you may fish two rods.

Shore casting begins to pick up around February and March and continues all the way to the spring run and even after the run. It’s an efficient way to go, especially for people that have physical limitations that keep them from navigating the rugged terrain and wading the rivers the rest of us are SO FORTUNATE to be able to do.

Just as you have to put up with all types of weather during the spawning run, if you want to get a fish from shore, that same principle applies. You have to work just as hard and put in just as much time and effort as you did when you first began fly or drift fishing. At the same rate, boredom can set in quickly so it’s not a bad idea to try throwing some spoons or as I prefer to do, just spend some great family time together at the beach.

Reminder of the Difference between a Steelhead and Kamloop:

While Steelhead will have no clipped fins, loopers will always display a clipped adipose (rear fin on back), and sometimes a pectoral clip (front fin).  As of this article publication, all steelhead must be released.  Check the current fishing regulations for more specific information.

Final Thoughts: Fishing is such an awesome privilege and to keep it that way for the future Steelheaders of the North Shore, remember to keep our lakes and rivers clean and be sure to familiarize yourself with the species of fish in the area that you’re fishing so that you don’t end up taking a fish that should’ve been returned to the water. Poaching can’t be tolerated even if accidental because it’s up to us to protect what can’t protect itself. And last but not least, snagging doesn’t give the fish a fair chance so please always fish within the rules and regs.

~ LM

Monday, April 08, 2013

Annual Minnesota Steelheader Creel Project

What's my Name?!?
If you are new to Minnesota Steelheader, or simply missed it last year, we need your help!

The Minnesota Steelheader Creel Project is a non-scientific poll of catch information similar to what is provided in the Official MNDNR creel reports.

Your part is very simple- When you fish in 2013, simply record the following information: 

Species & Number Caught: Kamloops, Steelhead or Brook Trout

The Region Where You Caught the Fish: Lower, Mid or Upper Shore. It is critical that you get the location correct. MS is not interested in the specific streams, simply the region, so please use this format:
Lower Shore Region - All Tributaries from Mission Creek to Knife River

Mid Shore Region - All Tributaries from Stewart River to Baptism River

Upper Shore Region - All Tributaries from Little Marais River to Pigeon River including those on the Reservation.

The Date the Fish Were Caught: Well, the date....

That's it! Species, Region and Date, how simple is that? There is one other important ground rule.

Please make sure that you only report steelhead, kamloops and brook trout numbers once. If you fished with a group, put your heads together and pick one person to report the TOTAL numbers, OR, only report fish you PERSONALLY caught. This helps prevent duplication in catch data.

Example - If you and your partner caught a total of two steelhead on April 24th, please do not both report back that you caught two steelhead, otherwise it will look like four steelhead were caught that day and it will skew the numbers.

You can send your information to: mnsteelheadernmf@hotmail.com

And the inevitable question, "What's in it for me"? MS is still trying to decide on what kind of Cracker Jack prize you'll get, but it will be something better than a temporary tattoo and related to steelheading.

The second benefit to participating is that the information you provide goes into an state of the art Water Gremlin Sinkerizer 4900 quantifying engine. The data gets sorted, analyzed, spun around, pats it head while rubbing it's tummy... It's quite something to watch, little drops of oily sweat actually start running down the tower it's working so hard.

The best part is the information which ultimately comes out provides us all with an increasingly better picture of steelhead fishing on the North Shore. MS publishes the information for you to think about and use whether you are brand new to the sport, or a veteran of 40 seasons. It's good stuff.

Last item is that we could really use more data on the Upper Shore, particularly late-season; so if you head up that way and have some success, please keep us in mind. You'll be helping everyone out if you do.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

More Signs of Life

Driving back from town today, I saw a sure sign that Spring is here. The neighbors had about 20 turkeys in their back yard with three big strutters being silly and showing off for the ladies.

Hmmmm... wonder what the picture looks like for some other bucks I've been thinking about lately?

Information sources for steelheaders come in many forms, and MODIS imagery is just one. While there's still pack ice out there floating around, there are definate areas of brownup occurring in the St. Louis River estuary. We should soon be seeing the telltale plumes of brown blooming out into the lake which signal the steelhead that it is time to come home. You can check the imagery yourself HERE.

In the meantime, all we can do is watch and wait. There is one disappointing thing about 2013 that is going to drive me nuts. While I have lots of data sources available for the Mid and Upper Shore, the Lower Shore is going to be a bit of an enigma. If you're not aware, the floods in 2012 knocked out the Sucker gauge along with the Knife trap, and the budget woes of 2013 have knocked out the Knife gauge. This means we're all going to be a little bit blind as to current conditions, but we at Minnesota Steelheader will do our best to fill in the gaps.

Guess I'm just going to have to go fishing more often; oh darn, what a dilemma...

Steelhead Fishing Report: 4-6-13

Steelhead Fishing Report: 4-6-13

A couple of our scouts have reported that some tributaries have just started to flow but are still mainly ice and not ready to fish.  Anglers are still out around river mouths fishing the big lake for Kamloops and occasionally catching steelhead.

Stay tuned as the reports here will be more detailed in the future.  We never give up fishing holes but will will tell you what regions are hot and which are not.  We will also let you know how many fish are being reported to the DNR creel survey staff.  These guys work hard to gather valuable data that helps you catch fish.  Be nice to them.

The river regions we specify in reports are divided into 3 areas: Lower, Middle and Upper shore, all regions are illustrated on our website, take a look to get familiar.  We even have links to maps you can print out or pick up from the DNR.  We invite all of you to give back a bit and share your own reports in our "comment" section of each of the posts.  See you on the water soon!


Saturday, April 06, 2013

Dating Profile of a Steelhead River:

Tag Line: Let’s Hook Up

Hi, I’m Stella Headriver. I was born and raised in a small town along the shores of Lake Superior in Minnesota. I consider myself down to earth. I like to stay active and love the outdoors and nature. Like, I can’t imagine living in a place without 4 seasons. Winters are long and hard for me (especially this one) but I love Spring. I’m shy at first but when things get warmed up I’m ready to flow. I’m outgoing and love traveling down to my favorite watering hole with friends. The Spring makes me feel so alive and full of life. Do you like Spring?

I think my perfect match is someone who can appreciate my beauty on the inside and out. If you can weather through my ups and downs and tell me I did it gracefully that would get you lots of brownie points. A perfect date for me would be to spend the morning together and end the night around the campfire with a few drinks. Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but I tend to get dirty after a few drinks, which you might like, but I’ve been known to have a few too many if conditions are right. When that happens things get real dirty and too out of control for most, luckily those episodes are usually predictable and short-lived. Well, except for last Summer, now that’s a dirty story. Sorry, I got distracted. I’m not looking for a guy who just wants to hook up, I’m looking for more than that, so don’t expect me to give it up on the first date. If you put in the time to get to know me, learn how to read me, I’ll slowly open up a whole new world to you and I promise it will be worth your time. So, like, if you’re interested Like me on Facebook and maybe we can get together and see where this takes us. K-Bye.

Friday, April 05, 2013


Don’t you just hate this time of the year? It’s Steelhead purgatory. We’re caught in between our real lives and Heaven. The pearly gates are jammed up with chunks of ice and rock. "God" is waiting out there in the calm cold pure waters of Lake Superior to forgive us all. We’re ready to bow down. Yet here we wait, impatiently, because we have to. We’re not in control, we have no choice. Luckily, we’ve been here before and know that this is how it goes. We give and we take, and we know when the take is good, and when it's good, it's so good, and we take it hard. You know what I’m talking about. Right? That tap, tap..tap, line pause…rod rise,..tug, tug, “FISH ON”…back …back…back…arms high, line screaming craziness?

Let’s be honest, no matter how many times we happen to out play the Tigers, this sport is better than baseball season. Let’s go sun, burn one down; for us. We're dying here. Thankfully, we know Steelheading is a struggle, but when our time comes, we'll be ready. Get out there, hang on and have faith.

Tight lines,


Thursday, April 04, 2013

How's the fishing?

It's hard to know if you don't know, you know?

Thankfully, it’s easy to know.

Go and ask the fly shop. Ask the bait shop. Ask the gas station. Ask the fisherman on the river. Ask the fisherman who used to be on the river 20 years ago. Ask the fisherman who's been on the river 20 years. Ask the fisherman who has kids. Ask the fisherman who’s with their Dad. Ask the fisherman who lost their Dad. Ask the fisherman with her daughter. Ask the fisherman with her nephew. Ask the fisherman with her niece. Ask the fisherman with her mother. Ask the fisherman who lost her Mother. Ask the fisherman that doesn’t know they’re a fisherman yet. Just ask. If there is a story to be told, there will be a story to be told.

Get out there, hang on and ask.